My question Amber or yellow lights was closed as general reference. I do not understand why: what general reference?

The one reference that was cited in a comment is the Wikipedia article about the color amber. I do not see anything in it that would help answer the question. The article discusses some of the legal usage (which wasn't the focus of my question — if it had been, I would have wanted more information, but legal usage is fairly easy to research so I don't particularly care about it). The article can be said to mention that amber is British and yellow is American, though it isn't very clear — but a dictionary clarifies this. The basic UK/US distinction was mentioned in the question anyway: it was not what I was asking for.

I admit I hadn't mentioned my motivation for asking (why I thought there was more than a simple UK/US distinction) in the original question; I have now edited it. Nonetheless, I don't understand why even the original question was closed as general reference, considering that no general reference that I've seen goes beyond what I already mentioned in the question.

Your edit makes the question reopenable, but someone else will have to provide the answer. I believe everyone but the traffic authorities in American says yellow, but that in officialese it is amber, and no one would misunderstand you no matter which of those you said. –  tchrist Sep 19 '12 at 20:57
At the time I voted to close I saw nothing in your question that wasn't addressed in the article cited. It was only when your appendix was added that the (formerly) final sentence made sense. –  StoneyB Sep 21 '12 at 2:02
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I didn't know there was a US/UK difference on this until the question came up and I looked into it.

And so far as I'm concerned, I really did have to "look into it". My first minute on Google failed to turn up anything definitive (like OP, I saw nothing obvious in the link given by the first closevoter).

First I had to establish the (to me as a Brit, unexpected) fact that "yellow" was indeed globally more common in this context than "amber". Then I checked co-prevalence with a known Americanism "run a [traffic light]" to ascertain that the difference was essentially a US/UK split.

My own thinking is that even if they don't use the word, Americans know perfectly well that other people call it the amber traffic light. But how would I know that they call it yellow? I still don't have a clue what Australians or others call it. General Reference? I don't think so.

For what it's worth, I (an American) had actually never heard of anyone calling it an "amber" light until seeing this question - let alone realized that it was the norm elsewhere in the world. I thought it was an interesting question. –  Lynn Sep 21 '12 at 5:00
@Lynn: That certainly shoots down the start of my last paragraph! But we're agreed on the substantive points - it was interesting, non-obvious, and shouldn't have been closed. –  FumbleFingers Sep 21 '12 at 11:57
As an American, I always thought that "amber" referred only to the color of turn signals, front side reflectors, and such... and not to traffic lights. –  Random832 Sep 21 '12 at 15:07
@Random832 Indicators ("turn signals") and front side reflectors (not many UK vehicles have those) are orange, not amber. But orange bulbs for clear/uncoloured indicator lights are generally coded Y for yellow, presumably because it can't be confused with a zero. –  Andrew Leach Oct 1 '12 at 14:53
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